New Year, New Beginnings

As is proper at the turn of the year, re-introduction can be in order. I haven’t been as regular with this blog as I would have like when I started, but I am going to make an effort to change that with 2016.

I will reach the big 60 in April of 2016. Not sure yet how I will mark that yet, but it does deserve some sort of acknowledgement. Especially since this year feels like a year of turning corners or new beginnings.

After suffering 3 small strokes (TIA’s) and discovering that I have a small hole between the chambers of the heart, I began to realize that it is Never too late to begin again. So that is what I am going to do.

There are many things I would like to do and/or try.  Now I just need to define the things I want to accomplish this year and make a plan to get them done.

I want to explore some different facets of fiber art, jewelry making, book binding and writing. I have a self-help style book that is designed to help individuals or groups to discover their uniqueness and how to make that uniqueness work for their life thereby creating a life they are happy with and love to live.

I want to be able to sell my fiber art to people because that will bring me an income that is not dependent on working a 9 to 5 job for someone else. To that end, I have created Cranberry Leopard Emporium as my business entity. I hope to present products here as well as in other markets.

Right to Live — Right to Die

I was going through boxes of papers the other day and came across the article shared below. This was written a year or so after my grandfather’s death in March of 1985.

It’s called “Right to Die” today; then it was termed “Mercy Killing” or “Euthanasia.” It was a rather unpopular and frowned upon subject.  Even today discussing ‘end of life’ or ‘what happens if …’ is only marginally better today — 30 years later.

We are still a culture obsessed with being ‘young & beautiful. We don’t want to thik of growing old; never mind that medical advances make it possible to live an active, healthy life just by taking some care of ourselves.

We do ourselves, our friends and our children a major disservice by turning our backs on ‘what might happen’ or not making an effort to think about our date with Death.  It’s a date we all must keep.

So here is what I wrote in 1986 – 1987 for an English class; my views on the subject haven’t changed.

Mercy Killing – Euthanasia – right or wrong? Should people be allowed the right to die, or should heroic measures be used to preserve physical existence when a person has no hope of living a functional life?’

Those in favor of mercy killing hold that a person has the right to die in dignity without the use of heroic measures to sustain life. They contend that it is not living to be tied to life support systems when hope for true recover has gone; nor is it fair to the person or his family.  It is a human being’s right to choose to ‘pull the plug’ if there is no real hope left for a person stricking by Stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cancer, or other debilitating conditions.

Those opposed to mercy killing claim that no one has the right to play God. They believe that medical science exists to save lives and any techniques that keeps a person alive should be employed. The sanctity of human life is to be preserved no matter what the cost.  After all, there is always a chance for a miracle cure or drug that will restore a person to a normal life after a massive stroke, etc. Mercy killing or Euthanasia violates that ethic by not allowing medical science to do everything it can to preserve life at any cost.

Having had to face this issue head on, I am in favor of mercy killing in certain conditions. My grandfather was the victim of a stroke (affecting his right side) about 6 years ago, which confined him to a wheelchair. About a year ago, a second major stroke caused him to be hospitalized; a week later a third major stroke left him totally incapacitated. He could no longer communicate, feed himself, recognize family or friends, or take care of personal needs. My grandmother, mother, aunt and uncles faced the difficult decision: Do we allow him death with dignity or do we allow the machines to keep him alive? The choice was made to let him go; he survived for eight more days (the doctors gave him three) due to an excellent physical constitution. By allowing him his wish to die with dignity and no use of heroic measures, we remember him as the active, vital person he had been, not the shell that remained after all the strokes. I reserve for myself the right to die with dignity should I now longer be able to live without heroic measures due to a stroke or massive brain injury.  If there is no real hope of being restored to a functional lifestyle, I don’t want to live strapped to a machine via tubes and wires.”

“Create your own unexpected celebrations”

The above quote is from Keeping Life Simple by Karen Levin

There are a number of ‘official’ holidays during the calendar year and the ways of celebrating those have become somewhat ‘scripted’ over the years.  Many are becoming overly drawn out due to their commercialization.  I’ve seen Christmas items in the stores by the first of October.  Is it really necessary to promote Christmas for over four months?

I was flipping through the book “Keeping Life Simple” by Karen Levine when the above quote caught my eye.  It got me to thinking; what could I do to create and celebrate an unexpected holiday? Of course it would be something inexpensive; after all I’m on a budget.

So I started to consider things I like to do that I haven’t done in a long, long time.  I came up with:

Walk in the Park Day —– Pack a sandwich or two, some fruit, a bottle of water and maybe a book.  Then head for a nearby part and spend a few hours just enjoying the scenery and the weather.  Maybe take some pics with my digital camera.

Walk in the Domes Day —– Much like Walk in the Park Day except spend a day wandering around the Milwaukee Domes, a series of large garden areas under glass.

Window shop with a friend Day —– Grab a friend and go for a leisurely walk in one of the local malls.  Sit in the concourse or food court and enjoy people watching as everyone scurries about intent on their business.

Buy Flowers for a Friend Day —– Go to a Flower Shop, buy a small posy and either send it to or give it to a friend just because.

Bubble Bath Day —– Take a day off from work, sleep late and enjoy a long, leisurely bubble bath with good music and a scented candle.

Off to the Zoo Day —– Borrow a friend’s child and go to the local zoo.  See the zoo through the child’s eyes and rediscover your own sense of adventure & fun.

These are just some that I thought of.

Perhaps to decide what sort of holiday you want to create, you could make an “Unexpected Holiday” box.  Decorate a shoe or other small box with paint, paper, stickers or whatever suits your fancy.

Make a list of the things you’d like to do for your celebrations or holidays.  Using a fancy font that you like, type the list in large (24 to 48 point) font on perforated business card or index card blanks.  Once all the items are printed, separate them into individual cards; fold them in half and put them all in the box.

Pull a card out when you find yourself in need of something to look forward to.

Keep adding things to do for your ‘unexpected celebrations’ as you think of them.  It’s okay to recycle ideas if it turns out to be something you really enjoy.

What are some of your ideas for ‘unexpected celebrations?’

Summer Sipping Never Tasted So Good

One thing I’ve noticed when doing historical reenactment, whether Renaissance, Victorian, Steampunk or whatever the period; is the need to stay hydrated and energized plays an important role in staying hydrated, but sometimes you need something a little more nourishing in your glass or mug.

So I experimented and the Summer Sipper was born.

I’ve named it after my Steampunk persona, Lady Eleanor Roden

Lady Roden’s Summer Sipper

1 c Peaches

1 c Strawberries

1 c Raspberries

1 c Cherries

1 c Blueberries

2 Qt Lemonade or Orange Juice

Working in small batches, blend 1 or 2 cups of fruit with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the juice.  Add more juice if needed for a smooth blend.

When a smooth, slush like blend has been created, pour into large pitcher and continue blending fruit and juice until all the fruit has been emulsified.

If mixture is too tart, add sugar in small amounts until it’s sweet enough for your taste.

For variety, substitute pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe or any other fresh or frozen fruits available in your area.

 

For a festive summer punch, mix the recipe with Chilled White Soda, Club Soda, Ginger Ale or Sparkling Wine.  If ice is needed, freeze slush mixture in trays or add frozen fruit to the bowl.

Blend in spinach, kale, frozen carrots to add a healthy punch.

Moms, if you have kids who dislike veggies, you can blend frozen spinach, kale, or other frozen veggies into the mix.  If they don’t see the veggies going in and you don’t tell them it’s in there, chances are they’ll never taste it.  You could also put the mixture in Popsicle molds to create fruit pops for snacking on.

“Live Like You Were Dying”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiOcW_YR1G8

Settling in for a short spate of reading before drifting off to sleep last night, I heard Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.”  Something in the lyrics resonated within me.  While the activities mentioned in the song are not necessarily the ones I would do in such a situation, I could see the wisdom in the thoughts behind the lyrics.

The idea behind the lyrics ties in with my plan to start living with the end in mind.  It encourages me to look more for the ways to live each day in such a way that at the end of the day I will be a bit closer to the ultimate end(s) I am working toward for this year and beyond.

Today, in and of itself, has been a bit frustrating in that I have had to fill in at work.  An overabundance of calls meant that the supervisor had to have me log in.  I had hoped to be able to head up to the attic to pull down some fabric bins from the attic to go through.  I need to decide if the things in the bins are worth keeping or if I should send them on the way to new homes.  However, I remember that it will be extra $$ in the paycheck at the end of the month and that makes it workable.

In order to ‘begin with the end in mind,’ I’m going to have to overcome one thing; making and sticking to a list.  For some reason, I have Not been able to make lists of things to do and follow them.  Something inside of me gets very rebellious and refuses to stick to the list.

All the distractions and side trips seem like lots more fun than doing what I know I need to do.

I welcome any suggestions or ideas on how you successfully keep to a To-Do List.

New Year, New Plans

How do I make this work?

It’s the end of January and I’ve made a ‘sort of’ start on the things I want to accomplish for the coming year.  I know what I want to do and yet I haven’t been doing it.  As has been said any number of times “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting new or different results.”

So this year, this time I am going to try something that I have been thinking about for some time now:

I am going to start doing things with the end result in mind.

It is a jump shift of thinking, doing, and being.  I know that it won’t be easy and I will slip from time to time.  But I will admit when I slip and do my best to keep moving in the new and better directions.

I invite you all to join me in a new way of looking at life.  Of looking ahead to the desired result and then back stepping from that to “now.”

A Settled Mind Sees Clearly

“Allow your mind to settle – like the muddy water churned up by a boat, it will soon become clear when settled” from A Thousand Paths to Happiness by David Baird.

Next time you’re at a lake, notice how the water can become murky when a high powered boat zooms by too close to shore.  All the silt and bits of stuff on the bottom gets churned up and you can no longer see anything clearly.  Wait for a while and everything settles back to the bottom and the water clears once more.

Once you see the bottom clearly again, you may spot a bit of treasure that you never noticed before.  This happens because when things are stirred up they don’t always settle into their old places.

The next time you feel like your thoughts are chasing themselves around in never-ending circles, put on some relaxing music, sit down and focus on the music, allowing your thoughts to settle and your mind to come to rest.

When your thoughts have stopped chasing themselves round and round in circles, problems seem to solve themselves.  The constant chasing of an answer, striving to solve problems only serves to churn up the silt of your mind, obscuring the answer that was right there all the time.

Worry acts as a way to churn up the silt of your mind.  Once you start worrying about one thing, don’t you find that other things spring up to worry about?  This is because worry acts like that power boat zooming in too close to shore over and over again as it races around the lake.  No sooner does the murky water begin to settle when the boat comes racing back through again churning everything up once more in its wake.

Becoming aware of your own thought-circles and how they churn up your mind is the first step in mastering the art of allowing your mind to settle and clear.  When that happens, you’ll be able to see answers to old problems and perhaps those new, creative ideas to share with others.

What are some things you do to help yourself settle your thoughts?

Artist Date Creates Inspiration

Trip down to Lakefront Festival of Arts, Take 2. (Take 1 was aborted due to raindrips)

Around noon, I was going to set out for the Lakefront Festival of Arts.  For those not familiar, the LFA is an annual event in Milwaukee, WI that draws artists from all over the US.  I noted artists from Cali and Florida and numerous states in between.

I took my time on the walk from the house to the Milwaukee Art Museum grounds where the festival was being held.  Along the way I snapped a couple things that gave me ideas for my own art. A corner finial suggests decoration for my tiny top hatsMetal Giraffe Sculpture

At one point, I sat down for a brief rest (I know when to listen to my ankles and give them a rest).  One guy was taking his pet lizard for a walk.  A number of people out walking their dogs strolled past.  Two adorable little Chihuahuas came up to sniff my fingers and get petted while I sat there. After a brief rest, I was ready to finish the walk to the LFA.

Walk up to the gate, pay the entrance fee, get a wristband (rapidly replacing hand stamps in many venues) and a program.  Then it’s into the shade of the large marquis tents housing the exhibitors.

Oil paintings, jewelry, fiber artists, wood artists, ceramics, metal, porcelain, paper and mixed media of every sort.  People from all walks of life browsing, chatting with the artists who created the work.  Trying to stop at every single booth was not on my mind this year.  I only wanted to pause at those artists whose work really inspired or spoke to me in some way.

Sarmite Wearable Art

Taken @ Sarmite Wearable Art. All images used with permission and may not be reproduced.

The first thing I saw as I entered the shade of the tents was Sarmite Wearable Art.  Geometrics and designs in bold colors and combinations.  I saw a few things that would do very nicely for Steampunk.

Vintiage inspired pins & rings

Taken at Mikel Robinson’s booth.All images used with permission and may not be reproduced

As I meandered through the tents, other shops caught my eye.  Mikel Robinson’s vintage style work gave me some ideas for the gears and cogs that I have accumulated from the deconstruction of 3 IBM Selectric typewriters.

David Burton's mixed medai with toys

Taken at David Burton’s booth. All images used with permission and may not be reproduced

David Burton’s 3D Mixed Media used a number of recognizable icons of comics, film and TV to create interesting murals in matte black.  Some pieces have old time kitchen implements worked into them.  One mural had a unique spot of color – the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.  Stood out in a very playful way against the matte black.

Who knew that cut paper could create such ethereal and fanciful images?  I’ve never seen paper art of this sort before, so I stopped for a few minutes to chat with the artist, Carol Menninga, as she knit a sweater while watching her space.  She told me she folds the paper and scissor cuts it to form the intricate shapes shown in her booth.

Carol Menninga's cut paper art

Taken at Carol Menninga’s booth. All images used with permission and may not be reproduced

There are a number of shops where I lingered, admiring the workmanship and creativity displayed.  One of the most impressive was Unzicker Design.  She works in fine chain mail style garments and accessories decorated with beads and other embellishments. Seeing what she had done has inspired me to pick up pliers and start knitting again.

Chain Scarf/Tie

Taken at Elaine Unzicker’s booth. All images used with permission and may not be reproduced

Elaine Unzicker wearing her creations
Taken at Unzicker Designs booth. All images used with permission and may not be reproduced

Tiny Top Hats & Happy Kitty

May was a month of very busy or very blah.  Not much happening but work and chores.

June is starting out a little better.  Had to go in for the usual 6 month check for meds and got a referral to the sleep clinic.  I just got tired of yawning all the time (no pun intended).  The VNA will be contacting me for a home visit to set me up with a new CPAP machine because the sleep apnea seems to have worsened.  That will be good.

Spent much of today working on a mini Top Hat or Fascinator.  It’s just a practice one as I’ve never done this sort of thing before.  Did all of it by hand and learned a great deal about putting one of these together.

Nearly finished top or crown

The crown is nearly complete

I started out by putting the brim together; turned out to be a bit of a mistake.  It’s much harder to sew the wall to the upper part of the brim when the brim is stitched together.

When I finished with the brim, I stitched the stiffening material (for this one I’m using plastic quilting template material) inside 2 crown circles.  It was stitched to the outer layer and all the tiny little notches clipped.
Then I turned to the wall of the hat.  Decided to use the same type of inner lining method and cut 2 additional wall pieces.  Then I stitched up the back seam.  Only I forgot to just stitch through one layer so I could turn the piece properly.  Thus it was very hard to put the stiffening element into place and I had to wrestle with that  for a little while before it came together.  Next time I’ll baste the stiffening element to the inner liner before stitching up the back seam.  I think it will be easier that way.
Patterns and Pieces

Mid point of assembly

Then I started to put the crown onto the wall and got about half way around before realizing I’d sewn it to the wrong end of the wall.  These little hats are supposed to be a bit wider at the top than they are where they meet the brim.  So I had to pick it apart and redo it the correct way.  Then it went together very nicely.

The hardest part was sewing the finished top to the brim.  Because this is a fascinator I didn’t think I needed to cut the center hole for the hat.
I was wrong.
Finished FascinatorTa Da!
It would have been much easier to stitch the top to the brim had I cut the hole.  I’ll remember for next time.
I shot the finished product next to a spool of thread just so show the scale of this particular Top Hat.  When I say mini, I do mean mini.
I was in charge of the house for most of the month of May.  Lee had to be out of town for 2 Rainfall Shows (http://www.pevnickdesign.com/gwflash/index.html) so I took care of things like bill paying, toilet paper buying and Morph feeding/litter box duty.
What’s a Morph?  Morpheus or Morph as she is commonly known, is Lee’s cat.  When he is out of town, I help out by feeding her and keeping her littler box scooped.   Because Lee was gone for such a long time, she was very lonely.  Morph was raised in a game shop so she is definitely a “people” cat.  She doesn’t get along well with the other cats in the house.  So I started letting her into my room during the day.
Morph on the bed

You rang?

She quite enjoyed sleeping on my bed for most of the day.  Now and then she would come down onto the little table I have set up to jot notes and things down for some pets before going back onto the bed to snooze some more or out of the room for a walk..

Even though Lee is back now, she still likes to come in and visit, especially if Lee is out running errands or down at the lab.

Into Every Life, Some Drama Must Fall

As I was dozing off around 11 p.m. last night, I heard some commotion in the kitchen below me.  Since there were no sounds of imminent mayhem, I let it go and didn’t think too much about it.

This morning I find out that someone in the house made themselves a bowl of cereal and left spilled milk all over the counter.  The next person who came in to fix a late supper found it and had to clean up the mess which had by this time reached the floor around the counter.  It’ not hard to figure out that she was rightfully annoyed by this, as such neglect had been discussed at the house meeting on April 15th.  Not know who the culprit was, she left a note on the hall bulletin board.

That triggered another house member (who tends to take Everything as aimed at her as a slight or an attack) to write a long diatribe about the first person not signing/dating their note and attacking other members of the house.  Her note began “If this is directed at me, I …” and rambled through a number of defensive things as though the first note had been directed exclusively at her.

That’s only a small part of the picture.  This is a rooming house of supposed adults ranging in age from early 20’s to mid-60’s.  Everyone who lives here is theoretically able-bodied and capable of taking care of themselves when it comes to cooking, cleaning up and the like.  We are all working stiffs or students with outside responsibilities and lives for the most part.  A couple of house members do not work because of various health issues but those issues do not prevent them from handling basic care issues.

Everyone is supposed to pitch in with chores around the house — from putting away dishes each evening to cleaning bathrooms (3) and taking out recyclables.  It is part of the rent we pay for living here.

At times, though, it seems as if people forget that simple fact.  Dish nights get ‘forgotten’ until someone else takes care of the pileup.  People ‘forget’ their chore and get upset when someone reminds them that they agreed to do that when they moved in.

And short of beating them about the head and shoulders with a clue-by-four I am running out of ideas to encourage people to do their part to be part of the community that is this house.

You see, as the designated House Manager, it is my job to keep this ship sailing smoothly and at the moment, we are veering away from the course that was set when the owner bought the place and started ‘collecting people to help pay for it.’